Alabaster searching for a sibling

Alabaster soon could begin benefiting from a friendship forged with another part of the world, as the city is in the process of searching for a possible sister city in Russia.

Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Alabaster Mayor David Frings began discussing forming a friendly relationship with a Russian city during a June 15 breakfast meeting with the Open World Leadership Center Executive Director John O’Keefe, who previously served as a U.S. ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic.

During the meeting, which was held at the home of Birmingham Friendly Force members Charlotte and Tom Laggy, the group talked about the possibility of establishing a sister city connection with a city about the same size of Alabaster.

“Getting a sister city is something we have thought about for some time,” Frings said. “The possibility of a Russian city came about when we met with a former U.S. ambassador to that part of the world.”

Following the meeting, O’Keefe told the Alabaster officials he would have Open World Leadership Center employees study several cities in Russia before bringing a recommendation to Alabaster.

“We don’t have a particular city picked out right now,” Frings said. “We hope to hear something back in the next few months.”

Partnering with a similar city on the other side of the world could prove beneficial to both communities, as both municipalities could learn from each others’ experiences, Frings said.

Because public transportation has been a topic of discussion in northern Shelby County for many years, Alabaster could partner with a Russian city with a successful transit program.

“The other city could have already made progress on an issue that we have been talking about. Mass transit is one that immediately comes to mind,” Frings said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If we can learn from a city that’s already been through some of these things, it’s going to help us out.”

Sharing knowledge could also benefit Alabaster’s sister city, and could even foster a better relationship between the two countries, Frings said.

“A friendly handshake and a smile can really go a long way,” Frings said, noting stereotypes of other parts of the world can be misleading. “If you reach out and communicate with people, you will see people around the world have a lot of different values and needs.

“The more we reach out and communicate, the better understanding we will have of one another,” Frings added.